The High Court in Lilongwe has ordered a judicial review on the controversial transfer of Judges John Chirwa and Dingiswayo Madise from the Mzuzu District Registry to Blantyre.
Judge Charles Mkandawire made the order in Lilongwe on Thursday following an application for an order for stay against the decision to transfer the Judges filed at the Lilongwe Registry by Leonard Kabatika Chipeta.
But Mkandawire said the Court could not grant the stay but will allow for a judicial review to take place as a matter of urgency.
A judicial review is a form of court proceeding in which a Judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body. It is a challenge to the way in which a decision has been made.
Chipeta, through Mzuzu based lawyer George Kadzipatike of Jivason and company, argued that the state, the Chief Justice and the Judicial Service Commission breached the constitutional right to access to justice for people of the northern region because government is unable to replace them.
“There are about 24 Judges in both High Court and Supreme Court in the Southern Region all of which Judges have statutory powers to exercise functions of a High Court Judge, therefore the decision is unreasonable and discriminatory,” he said.
Chipeta, is bitter because his case, in which he sued FDH Bank and Sembeyawo Banda claiming damages for defamation from the two following alleged publication of information by the two that he was dismissed from FDH Bank because he allegedly stole money and computers has dragged for four years now without being heard.
“My case under Civil Cause Number 63 of 2013 has been trial ready for sometime but due to the fact that there has been one judge at Mzuzu Registry, the file has never been allocated a date and there is no hope for its conclusion four years down the line,” he said.
Chipeta also argued that it was inconceivable that one Judge should serve 3 million people in the northern region when almost 9 million people in the southern region are being served by 15 Judges.
In 2015, lawyers from the northern region gave the Chief Justice 21 days to post two more Judges for the High Court in Mzuzu saying the presence of one Judge at the Mzuzu Registry is a disservice to people seeking justice.
In a seven page petition to the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court of Malawi and signed by 14 Law firms and Legal Houses, the Lawyers noted that the only Judge at the Mzuzu High court is overwhelmed with both administrative and judicial commitments.
“ Whenever the same and only Judge is outside the Northern region but a need for an urgent relief arises, say an interlocutory injunction, the whole northern region is handicapped and incapable of obtaining the said relief for the duration the judge is away hence defeating the very objective of ensuring access to justice,” reads part of the petition.